Not all the glitters are karat gold
By: Dee & Noam ~
Not all the glitters are karat gold—sometimes it’s filled, plated, or vermeil. These cost-conscious alternatives are beautiful and durable but need to be properly cared for. Here’s a quick guide
Designates a method of depositing a layer of gold onto a base metal by a process of electrochemical plating. While the base metal may be brass or copper, yellow or rose gold plated items can be also sterling silver and feature a gold layer at least 0.5 micron thick (anything less will be designated ‘gold tone’ or ‘flash gold plated’).
Stamps and markings for gold plating will be GP or GP prefaced by karat designation such as 14KGP or 18KGP, less frequently GEP (gold electroplate) or HGP (heavy gold plate).
Plating may wear off over time but replating is easy, fast, and relatively inexpensive. Do not machine polish and avoid polishing compounds, chemicals, and excessive rubbing.
Designates a layer of gold mechanically bonded (by pressure and heat) to a base metal. For 12 and 14 karat layers, the amount of gold is legally required to constitute 1/20th (5%) of the item's total weight. For 10k layers, it is 1/10th (10%). These layers are 30 to 100% thicker than plating and will last much longer. Gold filled items are highly tarnish resistant so people who can’t wear silver often prefer this option. Items made by the same process with slightly less gold, such as older pieces from the 1930s and 40s that are marked 1/8-14k, should be referred to as ‘gold-rolled' or ‘gold overlay.’
Stamps and markings for gold field will be 1/20 12K G.F. or 12KGF, 1/20 14K G.F. or 14KGF, 1/20 18K G.F. or 18KGF. 10K layers are less common and marked 1/10 10K G.F. or 10KGF
14KGR indicates gold rolled, which is usually 1/30th or less of gold by weight out of the overall item weight.
Longer lasting than gold plating, GF may however eventually wear thin. A good choice for bracelets and a better choice for findings when replating would require restringing or soldering. Clean with a soft, lint-free cloth. Avoid machine polishing or excessive rubbing.
Pronounced ver-may, gold vermeil means that the plated base metal is unquestionably fine or sterling silver. Vermeil is required by law to be at least 10K and 2.5 microns thick. It is most frequently seen in older items, decorative tableware or the high karat (22 or even 24) jewelry traditional to some cultures, but it’s also employed for multi-colored silver items. Fun Fact: a social room on the first floor of the White House called “The Vermeil Room” houses a collection of historic gilt tableware.
Stamps and markings for vermeil often just plain old 925 to indicate the sterling silver core, or 14GV (gold vermeil), 18GV, etc.
Do not machine polish and avoid polishing compounds and excessive rubbing. Vintage items may be coated by older methods and prone to flaking so handle with care. (Consider lacquering to preserve these items, but talk to a professional restorer or plating provider about your options.)